5 July 2015

My Tips for Flying with an Autistic Child

It's not long until holiday season now, especially for those of us with kids in school, and most of us will be thinking of jetting away to a sunnier climate to enjoy a few cocktails and chill by the pool. It's hard enough flying with kids as it is however if your child is autistic then you have an altogether different kind of flight experience battle on your hands. Here's a few little tips that I hope can help to make your journey as positive as possible, from a mum who's been through that battle!

Once you've decided where the family is going and you've booked up, it's a good idea to start preparing your child right away for what to expect. Books, pictures, youtube videos etc are all great ways to show autistic children what they should expect from an airport and the holiday destination they're going to. A countdown on a calendar to the special holiday date can be quite beneficial too.

Next you should ask the airport you're flying from for some help. Quite a lot of airports have an Additional Needs team, however it's not widely publicised enough if you ask me. As a family we regularly fly from Edinburgh Airport ourselves and only found out about their Additional Needs service by chance from watching a TV documentary about it! Anyway, an Additional Needs team can meet you at the door, hold you by the hand and take you step by step through each part of the airport. It's great because no one bats an eyelid when you've got a person with a badge and a hi-vis jacket on putting you at the front of the queue, but most importantly because you get through quicker it also minimises stress for your autistic child.

Take a bag full of interesting and fun things for your child to do on the plane. Logan has a trunki himself, which he loves, and it's actually great for sitting him on and whisking him through the airport. He hates walking and making him walk can trigger a meltdown so having the trunki is a god send. Some of the things I include in this interesting bag for Logan are;
  • A favourite book - anything which captures his attention for at least 5 minutes. Last year it was the Busy Airport book which we had been reading in the house prior to our trip.
  • A sticker book - he's right into superheroes/ transformers/ angry birds etc and the Ultimate Sticker Collection books have plenty to choose from (Angry Birds Transformers).
  • Card games are great and a good distraction (Dobble Card Game).
  • A small new toy of some sort is always a nice surprise. Last year I popped in Crosshairs the transformer. He went down a treat.
  • Favourite snacks are good too, don't want them going hungry.
  • Gadgets & Headphones are great if you have them. I make sure to pack Logan's iPad and his headphones so he can watch a movie and play his games with sound.
  • Ear defenders - these are amazing especially if your child is noise sensitive. Logan has some of the Edz Kidz Ear Defenders.
  • Always remember a change of clothes, something comfortable and soft. My son hates any rough clothing against his skin so that's when joggy bottoms come in handy.
  • Try not to bring all the goodies out of the bag at once as kids can get bored quickly. Drag out the awesome bag of stuff for as long as you possibly can.
If you can I'd recommend booking your seats on the plane so everyone can sit together, I'd also recommend booking seats at the very back of the plane as you're near the staff if you need anything but you're also out of the way so less chance of you getting stressed if you think you're disturbing anyone. I book for the back of the plane and this way Logan can stand up in his seat if he likes and no one seems to bat an eyelid. Sometimes if we're lucky enough it can also mean we get off the plane first out of the back door. It's up to you though and some people prefer to sit near the wings for engine noise to put their kids to sleep however this won't always be suitable for a child with autism.

As some of you might know, toilets on planes are very noisy and can be quite scary to young children. For that reason, if you can, make sure your child has their ear defenders on or let them wait outside of the toilet before you flush. It might just save you a meltdown.

So that's some of the things we do as a family to help Logan travel abroad. Some people might think why bother however we don't want him to miss out and when he's there, by the pool or at the beach, he's in his element and enjoys every minute.

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